According to the dictionary of ‘The Law.com’, Manrent is defined as;
Being in Scots law; The service of a man or vassal.
A bond of manrent was an instrument by which a person, in order to secure the protection of some powerful lord, bound himself to such lord for the performance of certain services.
Within the publication the History of The Scottish Highlands, edited by John S Keltie FSA (Scot) in 1830, bonds of manrent played an important part in Scottish clan relationships from the 15th to the 17th century. Disputes between opposing clans were frequently made matters of negotiation, with differences often settled by treaties. To strengthen a clan against a rival, or to maintain the balance of power in a region, a clan could join a coalition with friendly neighbours. The circumstances that led to manrents shows that the Scottish government of the time was too weak to protect the oppressed or quell disputes between clans.
Manrents protected smaller clans from being swallowed up by larger ones, and nursed the turbulent and warlike spirit that formed the common distinction of all. From these and other causes, the Highlands (and the lowlands ed) were for ages, as constant a theater of petty conflicts that paralleled larger ones in Europe. The circumstances that led to manrents shows that the Scottish government of the time was too weak to protect the oppressed or quell disputes between clans.
Although mainly a highland thing, manrent could also be seen occasionally in the Lowlands and Borders of Scotland. Abolished by an Act of Parliament, loopholes allowed it to exist well into the 17th century.
In the Celtic Magazine of 1886, Vol 11 p 166, there is a piece contained within the chapter on the history of the McLeods by the editor, which related to an ongoing feud and a battle between the Macleans and the MacDonalds in 1585. The former was assisted by the MacNeills of Barra, the Mackinnons of Skye and the Macquarries. The MacDonalds were supported by the Macleods of Lewis, the MacDonalds of Clanranald, the Clan Ian of Ardnamurchan, the MacNeils of Gigha, the Macallisters of Iona and the MacFies of Colonsay. The king at the time, James VI, brought in the Chief of Campbell to act as ‘arbitratos’ and hostages were give to the Earl of Argyll to await a final settlement between the MacDonals of Islay and the Mcleans of Duart. ‘Further as law was passede enuting any grievances were met with financial compensation’.
This led, during this same period, for William McLeod to enter into a bond of Manrent with Lachlan Mackintosh of Mackintosh, whose daughter he had married. It is written here as it was written then and in the following terms.
Be it kenned to all, me, William Macleod of Dunvegan, to become bound and obliged. Like as by the tenor hereof, I bind and oblige me, my heirs, leally and truly, by the faith and truth in my body, to take, efauld, and true part, assist, maintain, and defend, and concur with Lachlan Mackintosh of Dunachton, Captain and Chief of the Clan Chattan, and his heirs, in all and sundrie their actions, causes, quarrels, debates, and invasion of any person or persons whatever, indirectly used or intended contrary to the said Lachlan and his heirs in all time coming, from the day and date hereof, so that I, the said William Macleod, and my heirs, shall be sufficiently and duly premonished and advertised by the said Lachlan Mackintosh and his foresaids, to the effect foresaid, and shall give faithful and true counsel to him and his heirs, by and attour concurrence, and take efauld part with him and his heirs (as said is) in all their just causes and actions as said is. And sicklike I shall not hide, obscure, nor conceal, by any colour or engine, directly or indirectly, any skaith, displeasure, nor harm, meant or concert, in contrar the said Lachlan Mackintosh and his foresaids by any whatsomever person or persons, the same coming to the knowledge and ears of me, the said William Macleod and my heirs, but immediately after trial thereof in all our best manner, with all expedition and haste, shall advertise, report, and make foreseen the said Lachlan Mackintosh and his heirs thereof. As also to concur, assist, maintain, defend, and take faithful part with them against all mortals (the King’s Majesty excepted allenarly). And this my bond to stand firm and stable in all time coming after the day and date hereof. In witness of the whilk, I have subscribed these presents with my hand, in manner under written, at Culloden, the 15th day of January, 1588, before witness.”
(Signed) WILLIAM M’LEOYD offe Dunvegane
William married Janet the daughter of Lachlan Mackintosh of Mackintosh by his wife, who was the daughter of Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail. William and Janet died without issue. Willam died in October 1590 when he was succeeded by his next brother the famous Ruairidh Mor. According to THE BARONAGE OF SCOTLAND, Edinburgh, 1798, p. 378. XIV. Sir Roderick Macleod of that ilk, commonly called Rory More, of Great Roderick was man of a noble spirit, and much esteemed by King James VI, who conferred the honour of knighthood upon him. He was infeft in the whole estate of the family, as heir to his brother William, upon a precept from the chancery, dated in September 1596. The king’s favour for him continued as long as he lived, as appears from several kind and friendly letters to him from his majesty, which are still preserved in the family. He had also, under his majesty’s hand and privy seal, a particular license to come to England to court at any time he pleased, without trouble or molestation, dated 16th June 1616. Sir Roderick died in the beginning of the year 1626, and was succeeded by his eldest son, John Macleod.
Below is a rendition of what manrent in modern lanquage and definition, may have looked like within the Carruthers Family in the late 17th century.